Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner has dismissed suggestions that Sebastian Vettel's gearbox problem may have been a 'phantom' designed to give team-mate Mark Webber a morale-boosting victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The German started from pole position, having broken a tie with Nigel Mansell for the most in a single season, but lasted only 14 laps out front before being given a warning to short-shift in second gear. Despite the caution, however, Vettel continued to press on, and set fastest laps, before further warnings prompted him to move aside for Webber at the start of lap 30.
Instead of fading into retirement, however, Vettel continued to keep his team-mate honest, running close enough to retake the lead during two subsequent pit-stop windows and posting various fastest sectors before eventually crossing the line in second place, still seven seconds ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button. Despite Vettel comparing his race to Ayrton Senna's 1991 performance, where the Brazilian won his home race with just sixth gear at his disposal, cynics suggested that he may not have had a real problem, aware that victory could have propelled Webber into second place in the standings if both Button and Fernando Alonso had retired.
"Of course, there will always be people that have theories but, categorically, there was
an issue," Horner insisted to reporters, "If anybody thinks that [result] was concocted in any way, I can absolutely, hand on heart, guarantee you, based on the blood pressure that was on the pit-wall, [that] it was a genuine issue."
"How on earth that gearbox got to the end of the race is beyond me. There must be zero oil left in it because it literally went off the scale in those last five laps. We were glued to the data to see if it was going to make it to the end."
Horner added that Webber had been a 'deserving' winner, having not made it to the top step of the podium since Hungary in 2010, but the victory was not enough to lift the Australian to second overall. Instead, he had to rely on a late Jenson Button pass on Alonso to allow him to snatch third in the final standings.